Sofia Quintero’s career started in change management, before moving to advertising, then jumping into the tech industry and spending time at various startups.

The common thread was listening to the customer, but it also gave her a humble advantage in understanding that EnjoyHQ didn’t have to pretend it was the one and only uniting platform their customers might use.

Most of the time, you will find that teams are using fifteen tools and out of those, seven will heavily overlap. Then out of those seven, probably two will do exactly the same thing. Yet the team has this very specific mentality where they feel that they need both.

So instead of going for that goal with enjoyHQ, we ask more about what will make those things better. If they keep adding tools and tools and tools, what is that we can do to make that better?

I think that insight is still our competitive advantage. We’re not fooling ourselves.

Read on for the full interview.

Listening to the customer

Every single organization that I had the chance to work with, from super large organizations to tiny ones had the same problem. You will start a project and nobody knew what was the actual data about those customers and users? 

Somebody might be doing research in one department, then we run a service over here, we use this other tool to do some analytics, product managers are doing customer interviews, an agency did research for us three years ago — it’s always in siloes.

There was not a cohesive understanding of how to satisfy those customers. 

Starting off on the VC treadmill

The first little money we received from VC was exhilarating and exciting because it meant that I could focus my efforts into something I was excited about. 

But what I didn’t fully understand was that I was now on the treadmill where that money was going to run out and I needed to raise more money and raise more money and raise more money. Because the actual product that I’m building is complex. It’s not something that you bootstrap and just launch. 

It requires a lot of time to engineer and build a version that enterprises will feel confident with. Especially to connect into their own systems and share customer information — we manage very sensitive data and a lot of volume too. 

I had this naive idea that you can build stuff in a specific amount of time, like: Oh, we’re going to launch in a month. And that is not true. You will launch in two years. 

Designing for a different user

When what you’re building is not for people like you, as you thought, but actually for different types of customers and different types of users, you have to relearn the problem from a different angle. We learned that in our beta program, where a lot of the signups were from product managers, designers, and researchers. And that’s not my background, which is growth. So I had to really change my perspective and really be open and learn about how people will solve the problem and how I can help them with software. 

Learning to find your platform’s place in the stack

A lot of companies start with a vision that they are going to be the one tool that does all these things, that their customers can’t live without, or a platform that unifies X, Y, and Z.

I realized very early on that this will never really happens. Never. 

The way tools are used by companies is very fluid. Everybody will open an account to the thing that they want to try. Procurement will be aware that somebody was very naughty and opened an account in something else. Then it might go through a formal procurement process or not.

Most of the time, you will find that teams are using fifteen tools and out of those, seven will heavily overlap. Then out of those seven, probably two will do exactly the same thing. Yet the team has this very specific mentality where they feel that they need both.

So instead of going for that goal with enjoyHQ, we ask more about what will make those things better. If they keep adding tools and tools and tools, what is that we can do to make that better?

I think that insight is still our competitive advantage. We’re not fooling ourselves.

Bringing a different perspective to tech change management

Change management is all about psychology — what it takes to people to change and why people don’t change. So that was a very nice foundation for me to then go into advertising, understanding what actually makes people change.

Take an example like Slack. There is a behavior that was there before, but just the approach of the software can shape a different habit. This has led to a lot of companies betting that they can do the same thing. 

But that is almost always not true or very rare.

When you forget that, that’s where you become blind to the real opportunities to affect change. So when we are talking to a new company we might help, our effort at the beginning of those conversations is to truly understand the context. Even sometimes if it feels like it has nothing to do with our tool. 

We try to understand the whole context of how you do research in the organization. Who else does research? What else you consider data? Is that customer feedback or user research data? Are they separate or not? Why do you store things in Google Drive and SharePoint and why do you have three tools instead of one.

We want to understand that unique scenario and feed EnjoyHQ within that context.

The pain is huge. When you have these kinds of issues with data flow and access and productivity, it gets to a point where people are feeling helpless. They feel: I might as well not do this because when I do, it takes me forever. And once I’m done, it is too late or people don’t pay attention to it. 

The procurement challenge

I’m now very strongly convinced that procurement teams in organizations are the real reason why innovation doesn’t happen. It’s not product teams, or research or marketing. I’m astonished about how much of a bottleneck it is. It’s a desperate situation when you have a team in the organization that is trying to build a new product and it takes a year to source any tool that they need today.

Most people will tell you, well, if you want to sell to large companies, that’s what happens but I see it as a truly dangerous situation in organizations nowadays. I’m constantly shocked by how we accept that people can not get access to technology unless they go through years and mountains of paperwork.

This should be a topic that entrepreneurs push forward, because this is a problem for all companies. 

How cool would it be to see a CEO from a large organization saying: my strategy for innovation is having the fastest procurement team.

USA vs Europe

I do notice in terms of culture that there is a massive openness here for exploration, for trying things, for learning fast and taking risks and so on.

Europe is always a bit more conservative. Take partnerships, for example: if I tried to start a partnership with another company in Europe, it takes a lot of time and they are more skeptical about what can happen, suggesting we start small and so on. Whereas here you can start a partnership much more quickly and take it big.

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About the Author

MaxTB

Max Tatton-Brown is founder and MD of Augur, the entrepreneurial communications partner for "unsexy" tech.

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